What Does Your Business Card Say About You?

A business card might only be a few inches of cardstock, but that small piece of ink and paper plays a critical role in business networking. It’s this card that you leave behind to remind someone that they met you and that you are someone worthy of their time and connection – but it’s also small enough to fit in one’s palm, meaning you’re pretty limited by space with what you can say.Â

How do you develop a catchy business card that sums up the essence of YOU? Here are some ways to make an impression with the right information:

  • Less is more – Intrigue is everything, according to message expert Laura Allen of thepitchgirl.com. “My basic rule of thumb is, ‘clear and concise equals cash; vague and verbose equals trash,’” Allen said.
  • Be catchy – Coming up with a compelling catchphrase is the best way to make an impact that will draw the receiver in. “If I meet 40 people at a conference, I don’t have time to go back and look at their resumes,” she said. “But if somebody gives me their business card and the front of it says, ‘closed a $5.5 million deal from a cold call,’ … that’s something worth following through on.”
  • Be concise – While you should have a good message, make sure to keep it short. “It’s all about filtering down to the most important point,” Allen said. “You take the 15-second pitch — four sentences — and make that even smaller.”
  • Looks are everything – Remember, business cards are visual – much more so than a resume of LinkedIn profile. Therefore, rules of good design apply: using graphics to tell a story, paying attention to color theory (particularly the emotional responses attached to the hues you choose), and embracing white space as your friend. The most successful advertising campaigns often include iconography. You don’t necessarily need a logo on par with Volkswagen or Pepsi to make an impact, but do try to determine a visual brand that ties in with what you’d like to be known for the most.
  • Go pro – Just as design matters, production is important for a quality business card. Don’t buy a packet of cardstock and print these off at home! There are countless design and printing vendors online who can create professional business cards for a great price. Start with a small quantity at first – this will allow you to adapt your card as you feel out how effective the first model is.

Take time to look at the business cards you’ve received. Which do you like? What is it about these cards that speaks to you? Spending time to deconstruct what people have done well (or not) in the past will help you create a winning business card that leaves the right impression with those you come across while you network your way to success.


Creating Quality Connections

Picture this scene: You’re at the birthday party of a friend you regard highly. The friend is someone you crossed paths with years ago, and you currently have few mutual connections, which means the party is filled with people you don’t know – but who come pre-approved to a degree, if they gained this friend’s friendship. While grabbing another drink, your ear catches a snippet of conversation. A friend of this friend is talking about a subject you’re passionate about, and you’re impressed. This is someone you’d like to get to know. Do you step in and start sharing all the information you have on the topic?Â

In a social setting, you wouldn’t walk into a conversation and immediately dominate it or flash your smarts – at least, not if you’re trying to be socially adept and establish real connections. Rather, you’re more likely to ask questions and to learn what this interesting individual has to say first. After all, connection is a two-way street – if you want this person to value what you have to say, you have to be authentic and show that you value him or her first.Â

The same rules apply to business networking: focus first on connection before sales, whether the object you’re selling is yourself as a worthy contact or a good or service that puts bread on your table. Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of Business Networking International (BNI), shared on his blog about attending a networking event once and asking the attendees how many of them had come in the hopes of making a sale or doing business? Half of the audience raised its hands. However, when Misner asked the same crowd how many had come with the intention of buying something, not a single hand went up.Â

Misner called this a “networking disconnect.” The standard practice of networking too often focuses on selling instead of connecting. He refers to it as hunting – moving in on a specific prey in a single moment – when true networking is about farming, cultivating relationships with patience and care. Down the road, these relationships are likely to lead to business leads, but the connections are the focus, not the sales.

Here are four ways to cultivate that relationship for a quality connection:

  • Find out what is of value to your desired contact.
  • Determine what you can offer in the way of adding relevant value to that person.
  • Figure out how to deliver that value in a genuine, meaningful way.
  • Keep connected through periodic contact that centers on adding more value to him or her, whether of a personal or professional nature.


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In today’s fast-paced, digital world, it gets easy in the hustle and bustle to overlook the human aspect of a business relationship. “The foundation for successful networking and relationship building is making a good connection—that initial contact with someone rooted in mutual interest or experience that breaks down the wall that exists between us,” said Randy Haim, managing partner of Atlanta-based Bell Oaks Executive Search. “These connections should emanate from your genuine desire to learn about the other person and determine what you have in common.”Â

In his whitepaper “Connecting… The Forgotten Art of Social Interaction,” Haim outlines 10 connection-building skills to develop before your next big networking opportunity. Here are a few:Â

  • Ask questions – This may be one of the oldest pieces of networking advice, but it holds true: you are more interesting when you ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, particularly to someone they can tell is listening with genuine interest. As you get them talking, listen actively, looking for common ground.
  • Get personal – We’re often trained to avoid personal information in business conversation. However, conversations are human interactions, and those personal components – faith, family, values, perspective – are what make us who we are. Don’t shy away from sharing your values and talking with someone about theirs. However, getting to this personal level is uncomfortable for some, so gauge the reaction you receive and proceed accordingly. When done well and with a warm reception, this is a powerful way to an authentic, deep dialogue that can lead to a strong relationship.
  • Use humor – Laughter is one of the easiest icebreakers. Jokes veer toward awkwardness, but when you use humor by making light of a situation or poking fun at yourself, it can build an instant – and positive – bond.
  • Connect through content – Don’t be afraid to take the next step in showing someone you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say by putting that interest into action. If your contact mentions struggling with a professional development challenge and you’ve recently read something on the subject, go ahead and send them an email with the link to the article or a review of the book. This creates a point of discussion and follow up for future interactions.

As you work to better connect with new contacts at a personal, human level, you’ll be surprised at how naturally and easily networking becomes. Focusing on individuals as people, not stepping stones to success, forges a deeper bond that may sustain beyond the business at hand.


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Blogging to Opportunities

In today’s world of social media, it seems like everyone and their dog has a blog. (No, really – I’ve seen “dog blogs”!) However, blogging can and should be valued as a platform for differentiating yourself from peers and competitors. Not only is it a space to opine, but it’s also a way to find and create opportunities you never knew existed. Here are a few ways that blogging could lead you to bigger and better things:Â

  • Build a personal brand – A blog provides a platform in which you can share your personal passion and expertise, whether that be related to your profession or not. Some hobby bloggers have gained such followings that they’ve made blogging a lucrative full-time gig, like Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman. Ree’s quirky personality and killer recipes made so many fans that she’s gained sponsors, national exposure on morning shows, and even her own series on The Food Network, not to mention publishing a cookbook. Her success is one in a million, but it showcases how much people connect with passion and stories, no matter in what specific area. If you’re an avid golfer, tell some of the experience that stand out from your time on the course. Draw analogies between your golf game and business or life in general. Help your personality shine through. Many bloggers have made their way to the corporate speaking circuit or the realm of consulting.
  • Increase your network – One of the interesting dynamics of today’s online world is that perfect strangers can find one another by connecting over content, whether it be vigilance over car-seat safety or a shared interest in bird-watching. Place relevant, engaging content in the blogosphere, and then take the time to find bloggers with a shared passion. If you comment on their blogs and engage in a conversation – not merely trying to direct traffic to your own blog – then you will be able to find like-minded online friends. Increased connections up your chances of professional opportunities, either from focusing your blogging energy on a professionally relevant issue or by making new friends who might know someone with the ability to get you to the job you need.
  • Keep current on what’s hot (or not) – Blogging can be a great way to learn what connects with people. See what people are talking about in the blogosphere, and notice what posts you write draw the most comments and debate. Don’t shy away from being a little controversial. Don’t purposefully incite a fight, either – but if you have strong opinions on a particular subject, be bold in stating them. Listen openly to those who counter, and respond thoughtfully. Not only will everyone benefit from a reasoned discussion, but it will also help frame you as an individual who is willing to take a stand.


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Learning from Successful Social Media Strategists

Business-to-consumer communication has been revolutionized with the advent of social media in the last decade. With nearly 80 percent of corporations now incorporating social media into their marketing and communication mix, the role of a social strategist is becoming more and more standard as a needed and respected part of the team. Mashable recently published an awesome infographic about what it takes to be a social strategist. Even if you have no desire to make social media your 9-to-5, what are some things you can learn from the social media managers and other social media professionals surveyed?Â

The characteristics identified as making these strategists successful at their jobs were, in order:

  • “I’m multi-disciplinary and can wear many hats.” (58%)
  • “I’m willing to take risks.” (46%)
  • “I can rally different stakeholders across the organization.” (45%)
  • “I can effectively lead a multi-faceted, cross-departmental effort.” (38%)
  • “I have experience in social media.” (37%)
  • “I have a long-term customer-centric vision for the program.” (24%)
  • “I can communicate the ROI to executive leadership.” (16%)
  • “I have been working at my company many years.” (13%)


What stands out in these numbers to me is that the key to success for these strategists has less to do with ROI or long-term plans and more to do with the ability to innovate – whether that be juggling disparate responsibilities and trying new things without the fear of failure.Â

I’m convinced that the connection between the two isn’t coincidental, either. Those who are able to take on a myriad of responsibilities – from creating content to coming up with strategies, analyzing metrics and adapting accordingly, spearheading campaigns, and evangelizing social media to stakeholders – are likely to manage participation in a myriad of media as well. They know how to work with varied audiences through varied channels, connecting consumers with companies adeptly, and they also know how to translate the benefits of social media into terms executives can appreciate and get behind, regardless of the executives’ familiarity with social media themselves.Â

Proactive social media professionals are those who are able to change and evolve along with the new shifts that come in technology. They are the ones who remain on the bleeding edge of new technologies, adopting them early and then advocating experimentation with them. These forward thinkers use the new media intuitively and find ways to extract the maximum ROI from the tools (remembering that ROI in social media is less about sales conversions and more about building relationships and brand loyalty).Â

Likewise, to get the most out of social media, businesses need to be willing to try new things – and to try lots of different things as well. The benefit of social media is that most of the tools are free. Not having to invest much overhead to dabble in different platforms leaves businesses wide open to experiment with new initiatives and see what resonates with their customers. Be willing to adapt to and adopt new technologies and integrate them into different parts of the business cycle – from marketing and sales to customer service – and you’ll be sure to find what works best for your particular business niche.